John F. Kerry photo

Remarks on Tax Policy

March 10, 2004

Thank you John, Rich, Linda, and members of the Executive Council, for inviting me to spend a few minutes talking with you about what's at stake in this election. I want to thank you for the great welcome and endorsement in Washington. Never have we needed to work together more effectively and energetically than now. And as I said in Washington: this November, we are going to beat George Bush and get our economy back on track.

I'm sorry I can't be with you in person. But I'm sure you'd agree that the people here with me today at the Hill Mechanical Group are the folks this election's all about. They don't just build buildings. These workers – and millions like them all over this country – are the people who have built America. And its time they had a President who honors their contribution to this country and gives them the respect they deserve.

You know better than anyone that too many Americans work till they're bone tired and still find they can barely make ends meet. They're getting socked from all sides by bills and taxes and tuition costs and health care premiums. And they're working harder just to stay in place.

And all the while, Americans watch as this White House wastes their tax dollars and gives those who cut corners and break laws special benefits while those who do what's right get the short end of the stick. It's not hard to see why so many people think they're working for the economy, but the economy's not working for them.

The stakes in this race are enormous. We have to bring back an America that values work and honors working people, day in and day out. That means new leadership that respects the values working people hold dear: sticking up for ourselves, playing by the rules, looking out for each other, a fair break for everybody - not just those with the connections and the cash.

We learned the truth of what we believed: George Bush thinks exporting our jobs is good economic policy. I believe we need to create and keep good jobs here and export goods.

George Bush is the first President since Herbert Hoover to actually lose jobs under his watch. But rain or shine, surplus or deficit, George Bush's economic prescription begins and ends with tax giveaways for those with special pull and special influence.

I intend to return tax fairness to America. With George Bush's tax cuts, the top one percent of taxpayers have received almost forty percent of the breaks. Meanwhile middle class working people have seen their share of the tax burden go up, not down.

If you add up the true costs of this President's economic policies, you get a Bush Tax of higher property taxes, higher fees, higher health care costs – at the same time middle class incomes are going down. In thirty-two states, state and local property taxes have gone up. This Bush Tax can take thirty-five hundred dollars or more from the pockets of America's middle class. And they can't afford that price.

George Bush is running on the same-old Republican tactics of fear – and they're already getting tired. But we have something better than attacks, we have the facts. And here they are: Under George Bush's policies, middle class families are paying more. America's middle class can't afford a tax increase. That's why we're going to give the middle class a tax cut.

I am going to ask America's wealthiest people – those making over $200,000 a year – to pay the same fair share they paid under Bill Clinton. Back then the rich got richer – but everyone else did too. By rolling back the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest among us, we can start to restore fiscal responsibility and invest in education and health care for our people. We also need to shut the loopholes that force American workers to subsidize sending jobs overseas!

Our middle class tax cut will help working people afford college and pay for health care and make ends meet. If this President wants to make this election about taxes after he's cut billions for billionaires and given middle-class families a larger share to pay, we're ready for that fight.

This President promised that his tax cuts would create 4 million new jobs – so far he's only 7 million short. So it's no surprise that his only real proposal to create new jobs is to make his tax cuts permanent. But as the Laborers members there will tell you: when you're 7 million jobs in the hole, step number one is pretty simple: stop digging.

Just the other week, he promised us that he'd create 2.6 million new jobs this year alone. But his own Treasury secretary told us that wasn't true, his own Commerce secretary told us that wasn't true, and yesterday, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office put out an official report saying his new round of tax giveaways wouldn't create new jobs.

It must be getting lonely for George Bush. It seems he's the last person left in America who actually believes his failed policies will ever work

We've all heard the old saying, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again." But we've also heard the saying that goes, "take a hint." This President stubbornly refuses to admit his policies aren't working and to change course. And that's why this November the American people will chart a new course for our nation.

You and your members know better than anyone that America is hurting. Everywhere I've been in this campaign, I've met working Americans who are getting the short end of the stick. Jobs on the run. Wages and salaries dead in the water. Bankruptcies and foreclosures at record highs.

But all the pain I've seen doesn't hold a candle to the power of the confidence and hope that everyday Americans have in the future of our country.

We're going to harness that spirit to give America a new beginning.

We will create new incentives to help companies create and keep new jobs here at home. If I'm President our government won't provide a single reward for sending our jobs overseas, or exploiting the tax code to go to Bermuda to avoid paying taxes while sticking the American people with the bill.

We're going to invest in our people again – in their training and skills and in raising the minimum wage so that working people can make ends meet.

We're going to make health care affordable for our families and our small businesses and hold down the soaring costs of health insurance and prescription drugs. If I'm President, we will end the days when working people have to negotiate away wage increases just to keep their health care.

And I'm going to stand up and insist that trade mean fairness for workers – not a free ride for those that break the rules. This Administration has let foreign countries break the rules and walk all over us.

As I've said to you many times I will fight for real worker and environmental provisions in the core of every trade agreement. And I'll order an immediate 120 day review of all existing trade agreements to ensure our trading partners are living up to their labor and environmental obligations.

Just a few months ago, this Administration said they opposed efforts to increase the funds for enforcing China's trade agreements. They said the money was just "unnecessary." I'll tell you what is necessary – a President who will put American workers first.

And we're going to join the fight to bring basic fairness back to our workplaces. I will stand up for safe workplaces and the right to organize, especially through petitions and card checks. I will protect collective bargaining rights. And I will stop any effort to eliminate the 40-hour work week and overtime dead in its tracks.

We know what this President is offering to America: the politics of blame – and a promise of more of the same. It's clear George Bush will fight like hell to keep his own job, but he won't lift a finger to help Americans keep theirs. I'm running for President to put America back to work.

I know the fight for jobs, the fight for affordable health care, the fight for trade policies that work for America won't be easy. But I've been in tough fights before. For 35 years, I've fought for my country and for people. And I'm ready to lead the battle for our jobs and our economic future.

I say to all of you and all of America: get ready, a new day is on the way.

John F. Kerry, Remarks on Tax Policy Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/216729

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